Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Frost

brief snow flurries yesterday...head colds...first frost this morning

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Where Did November Go??

Well, I guess we were busy in November, and I completely failed to post anything here. November is always packed, with two birthdays, two weeks apart, followed very shortly by Thanksgiving.

The birthday celebrations went well. Our family rule, suggested by a very wise friend a few years ago, is that a child only gets a party on an even number birthday year. With boys five years apart, and birthdays separated by only two weeks, this greatly improved my sanity when we implemented it. Before, with two parties, separate celebrations for homeschool and public school friends, and all the accompanying hoopla, I was not exactly joyful about the preparations by the end of November. Having them alternate the year that they have a party also helped slow down the toy accumulation.

This year it was the older child's turn, and he had a great time at a local laser tag venue. Up until last year, all the boys' parties were home or park parties. I'm glad we were able to give them a memory of a "fancy" party, (I still remember my McDonald's party when I was a little girl) I'll be glad to get back to our outdoor, homestyle parties next year.

On a year when a child doesn't have a party, he gets to go somewhere special with one friend. Younger child had a great time on his special day, and got to be included at his brother's "big kids only" party.

The boys' birthday weeks are quickly followed by Thanksgiving. Even though it's after the fact, I've added a list of some of our favorite Thanksgiving books to the side. While I often don't get organized enough to fully incorporate all the seasons and holidays of either the natural or church calendar, I love to try and have seasonal picture books available for us to peruse, and try to do some kind of coordinated baking or craft.
This year, per the younger boy's request, I made the cranberry bread recipe from our favorite Thanksgiving book, Cranberry Thanksgiving. Until preparing this post, I had no idea how expensive copies of this book are, and I feel extra grateful to have acquired one somewhere along the way. The bread was a big hit. As Mr. Whiskers would say, "How about some more?"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

a near perfect fall day

a visit with our favorite caseworker

a relatively peaceful and productive homeschooling morning

a little sandbox play

free ice cream!!!

some urban wildlife

lots to be grateful for

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

country days

Some days we miss living in the country, a lot! So it's nice to have family who live in the woods to go visit. Last week with my folks we had lots of weather - deluge rains and then bright crisp sunshine days. Other than the fair, we just hunkered down in the woods, with the boys doing a lot of riding on the golf cart and tagging along behind their PawPaw. A little bit of target practice, one perch caught, mucking around in the mud and in the ponds, checking hog traps, and a few westerns on the tv - a pretty wonderful fall break for a couple of young boys.

pond overflow pipe

misty morning

water rising

birdhouse and sumac

sunshine returns

Friday, October 9, 2009

sometimes emotions run high

Mama to young boy at 5:30 p.m., after a few emotional days:

"So was today a horrible, no good, very bad day?"

"No mama, but the day's not over yet..."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

technical difficulties resolved

The last couple of weeks I've been battling trying to get my computer to remember how to "talk" to my camera. Today they seem to finally be on speaking terms again.

In the meantime, the long-awaited rain has made the zinnias in the backyard very happy, which makes me very happy as well!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

favorite new thing at the library

One of the advantages of restricting technology in our home (my son would have me believe he's the ONLY almost-twelve-year-old he knows without a cell phone or an email account) is that my boys still get excited over things that other kids might not. Like the video games in the childcare at the gym. Or the new, exciting Playaways we've discovered at the library. We've gotten books on CD before, and enjoyed them. But there's something special and compact and "kid cool" about these little MP3-like players that just have one book on them. The library supplies the Playaway, and we have to furnish our own headphones and batteries. And I love that on one website, they're described as being "made of droppable plastic." Droppable is good around here.

We've brought home one of the Percy Jackson series (which my child has already read, but is enjoying hearing none the less) and have checked out Horrible Harry and Mr. Putter & Tabby Stories for his younger brother. So far they're a big hit.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

like a sponge

Overhead at bedtime.

Six-year-old to brother:
"What was Apollo's Roman name?"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

loving fall and little boys

One of the many reasons I love my six-year-old:

"MAN, it's a nice morning!"

indeed it was...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Myths & Legends Picture Books

We are going to be covering Ancient History this year at both a 1st grade and 5th grade level, so I've been looking for picture books of myths and legends to compliment the history readings, and found some beautiful ones at our library. So far we've found:

becoming an independent reader

I realized that I haven't posted about books in a while, and have gotten sidetracked with summer travels, gardening and daily life. But I did originally intend to blog about books and homeschooling, as much for my own records as to share with the three or so other people who may occasionally see this blog.

I've just added a sidebar entitled "Favorite Books for Youngish Boys". These are books that I think are really wonderful for a younger, male independent reader. I wanted to clarify that I'm not suggesting that these books are exclusively appropriate for boys, or that they do not work well as read alouds for younger children or might not capture an older reader. I just know that these were very popular around here with my child when he first came in to his own as a reader, around the age of 7 or 8.

At the time, I searched for books that were well written, appealing to a young boy, and would be challenging but not so hard as to be discouraging. Recommended by a very wise homeschooling mom I know, the Dick King-Smith books were a great transition to chapter books for my son. And while I was initially hesitant about graphic novels (or comic books as we used to call them), my sons have loved Tintin and the Asterix series, and I'm very comfortable with the content.

Since I've got another boy coming up on this age, I want to remember our favorites and I hope to continue adding to the list.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

a museum after their own heart

While I'd like to think that I'm trying to raise Renaissance young men, with varied interests from mountain biking to Monet, truth be told my guys are more than a little reluctant to go to an art museum. Try as I might, they seem to lack the attention span and appreciation for a fine art museum. I'll keep working on them, but I also recognize that I need to meet them half way sometimes.

I had decided that we would do a "soft" start to school this week, just kicking off the new school year with some field trips. We found the first week of public school perfect for this. It's too early for the schools to start field trips, so the museums were quiet and empty. Our first museum was a little too empty. The main gallery area was closed for another week as they set up for a new exhibit. It worked out great though, in that they got to see a copy of the Gutenberg bible and the first photograph in the lobby, here. It was probably just the right length of time for them.

We hit a home run on our second day. One of my children had gone briefly to our local Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry with his camp group this summer. When I mentioned that we'd spend a week trying to go to museums, this was his one request. It would have never made it on my radar, but I can now recommend it heartily. Thanks to the great docents, who obviously are well-versed and passionate about military history, the boys heard a lot about different battles ranging from the fight for Texas independence to World War II. Even though the museum is undergoing renovations, the docents, dioramas, and memorabilia make it well worth the trip. The boys especially liked the section where you could try on gear:

They can't wait to go back with their PawPaw, and their Poppy, who loves a good diorama. And I can go to the art museum while they're busy with the guns and battles.

my child, really??

Me: Thanks for getting the mail. Would you like one of the double chocolate chip cookies for a snack?
Child: Can I have a yogurt instead?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

summer comfort food

It is still full blown summer here in Texas. And there's no sign of waning heat yet. Even though we like to pretend it's fall, what with public schools starting back, pools closing and the calendar about to flip to September, those of us in Texas know better. The website of the local paper says it's 98 outside today, but feels like 106.

What with the heat, I've been boycotting the kitchen for the most part all summer. I know I should just stick with menus of salad, yogurt and fruit, and anything that can be made without creating heat. It's daunting to turn on the oven in this kind of weather.

But last night I couldn't help myself. I had tried a couple of recipes for sweet potato biscuits last week when we had company over. Both recipes were very tasty, and I found myself with leftover sweet potatoes, and a craving for biscuits. I followed this recipe except I used buttermilk. They did not get big and fluffy, but they are delicious. Sometimes, even in the heat of summer, you just have to bake, in order to have things like fresh biscuits and chocolate chip cookies.

I love to bake, so now I'm just waiting for cooler weather, say in the lower 90s, to really get going. I can't wait for fall.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Regaining our rhythm

We are slowly regaining our rhythm and righting ourselves after a fairly hectic summer.

Except for the couple of weeks of vacation, the boys have spent most of the summer in camp at our favorite Parks and Rec center. I'm so grateful that they have a place to go where they feel safe and comfortable, and are kept busy and active through summer heat that wears me down. I would be totally daunted at the prospect of hiking 8 miles with twelve 5-7-year-olds in 95 degree plus weather, or casting off with a ton of kids in 25 or so canoes and kayaks. But the mainly college age staff is intrepid, and have given my kids summer adventures that I would never have been up for in this heat. It also gives my boys a small dose of some of the social aspects that they would encounter if they were enrolled in school. This has been both good and bad at times, but on the whole I think the exposure is great for them.

Now we are taking a couple of weeks to remember how to just be before starting up formally with school. We are finding it a bit challenging to move from the hectic pace of summer and more relaxed rules on screen time and bedtimes back to our more structured school year schedule. The first couple of days out of camp the boys struggled to figure out what to do. It is slowly coming back to them. Lego battles have ensued, a little bit of backyard baseball has taken place, and the older child has remembered all the wonderful books around him, and rekindled his affection for lazy days reading on the couch. Now if the heat will just subside, it will feel more like fall and we can all fall back into the autumn patterns I love so much.

This week we have worked on improving our learning space. We'll continue with that next week, and indulge in a week o' field trips before formally buckling down.

I can't wait.

Friday, July 31, 2009

getting away from it all

We were lucky enough to have the chance to escape the heat this summer, for a brief two week respite. As my husband said, we ended up cramming several different vacations into one - tourists in Dodge City, tent camping in a National Forest, hanging in a ski resort condo with friends and family from home, and finally relaxing for a few days and pretending we lived in a small funky mountain town with an old-fashioned court motel as base camp.

We woke to cool temperatures and beautiful mountain scenes.

We saw lots of bicycles and bicylists.

We stepped foot on the Continental Divide, three times!

We were so glad to take the trip, and had a great time. And now, the nice thing is, we're glad to be home.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lazy Fourth

It's been too hot to be outside in the middle of the day, unless surrounded by a large body of water. And to be honest, the boys have spent way too much time today with TV distractions, between Saturday morning cartoons and the first day of the Tour de France.

So, it was refreshing this afternoon to see the boys engaged in something non-electronic, and playing with toys that they haven't touched in a while.

Gotta love Playmobil meets Lincoln Logs.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

eating local

I have yet to get a garden going in our new home. It's been over two years since we moved, so I guess it's not so new. I've got herbs mixed in a flower bed, and this summer I did get some tomato plants going in pots, but the one tomato every two weeks certainly isn't going to sustain us. I got some help this week clearing out grass, and I've got a vision of a couple of beautiful raised beds tucked away in a corner of our small backyard.

But in the meantime, we are lucky enough to have an amazing CSA farm not 1/4 mile from our house. That's right, we live in a brand-new suburban subdivision and there's an organic farm a 1/4 mile from my house. If I walk up to higher ground in our neighborhood I can even see it. And on top of it all, the farmers are great people!

And so even without my own garden, I get to have beautiful summer meals like this:

tomatoes, corn, & chard courtesy of Green Gate; basil from my backyard

Happy summer dining, local style...

Friday, June 19, 2009

the childhood they deserve

I sometimes/often worry that I'm not giving my boys the childhood they needdeservewantshouldhave.

I long for my idealistic early parenting days when people complimented me on what a good mom I was and our living room was sprinkled with gentle, beautiful Waldorf toys rather than Legos and light sabers. (While some could rightfully say I've caved and given in, there are people in my life who I'm sure are glad that my inner holier-than-thou dogmatic parent has been humbled and taken down a notch as I continue on my parenting journey.) Some days I focus on where I've fallen short, and how far the day-to-day reality of our lives seems to stray from the ideal I'd like to create.

But then I come across a photo like this one, taken a couple of years ago at my parents' house, and I remember that sometimes, on some precious days and for at least a few moments, they are having the childhood I would wish for them.

boys on dock, just lookin'

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Backyard Funk

It is hard sometimes not to mourn our old home in the country. We were spoiled, surrounded by trees with no neighbors in sight. And I think we only had two covenants, one of which involved pigs. (And even this was broken by some of our neighbors.)

Our move to the "big city" and to the constraints of suburbia has brought many blessings, but I don't count the small backyard and strict neighborhood rules among them. We have (I think) been dutifully following the rules, and our front yard looks very proper and much like our neighbors. I'm feeling the need to bust out in the backyard a little, though. While the front landscaping pretty much fits with the traditional brick style of our house, in the back it has been time to throw in some color.

For now, the most impact we've made has involved paint, in small doses.

I'm hoping we continue, and that riotous color of the plant variety comes along also. I hope our neighbors won't mind!

Wordless Wednesday

Thursday, June 11, 2009

hiding in the garden

Calling the neglected corner of our backyard is a bit of a stretch at this point. It's wild and untended. The destruction wrought by scraping off the topsoil in order to create our subdivision was pretty severe. We have nuisance plants like poison ivy and some type of thorny vine that really like it there. On the upside, volunteer horse herb and some yaupons have come back on their own, and I've had good luck spreading seeds of scarlet sage in this shady spot. And I've had great fun seeing plants that I'm not familiar with bloom and surprise me, like this flower.

It may actually be a weed, but I'm not sure I care...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Summer has officially begun

While the heat of some April and May days felt like summer, I now know that summer has officially begun. In the last couple of weeks we've:
  • had poison ivy/oak
  • seen just-hatched baby swallows on our front porch
  • been to the local municipal waterpark
  • gotten sunburned
  • seen the first bloom of the morning glory vine.

I think we're off to a great start!